Engaging critical conversations about pornography

Written by Terra Mattson
Published on September 30, 2022

Hearing the word “porn” can make us want to shout “la la la la” with our fingers in our ears.

But with the infiltration of pornography through the digital age, this is the critical conversation in our homes we can no longer ignore.  

Leading instead of waiting

Some parents wait until this conversation appears needed. “My child doesn’t even know what that is. I will wait until my child says something.” 

Well—I hate to break it to you, but your silence is saying something. 

Children do not know what they do not know. When we lead our children instead of waiting for them to stumble through the darkness on their own, we give the gift of relationships and of grace, knowing that no matter what they face in this world, we will be right there with them. 

They need us to lead with language and tools so that when they are exposed, they are not filled with shame and hide but will have a game plan. 

God’s Word in their world

The conversation isn’t a one and done. It’s an ongoing one. 

Deutoronomy 11:19 says, “Teach them (the scriptures) to your children, speaking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (BSB). 

This means that wherever we go and whatever we are doing, we are helping our kids to understand how God’s Word relates to their world in a practical way. 

Sometimes we think this billion dollar industry is just targeting boys. However, recent studies (and our counseling offices) show us a different picture. The growing population of porn addiction in youth are young women. 

This needs to be a family conversation, without any shame, about changing bodies, sexuality, pornography, and sex.  

Love in the real world

Did you know the average age of pornographic exposure is between 6 and 11 years old?! I know. So sad. Every sex addict in our counseling office shares the moment they first saw pornography. The neighborhood hangout. The stash at their best friend’s home. The slumber party. The family computer. The advertisement. Social media. 

We could isolate ourselves and hide in a cave (it has crossed my mind a time or two), or—we can do as Christ said, “to be in the world, but not of the world” so that we will be a “light in the world” that is desperate for something real

Real love

Let me put it this way. God designed us all with a clear purpose and significance. Like a bullet loaded with gun powder and ready to aim, pornography empties a soul and leaves it like a bullet shell without any power. 

Pornography is incredibly addictive. The dopamine fix (feel good hormone) is quite good, and because God designed sex to be quite good, it’s a false use of what God has purposed. That is the enemy’s turf. Hollow. Empty. Aimless. Using what God intended for good for evil. 

Shame vs. grace

Shame says “you are bad.” 

Grace reminds us that “I am loved. But I can do bad things that can be repaired and made right.” 

When we want to give our kids a grace message that says no matter what you do (or see), you are loved, and your actions, though they have consequences and affect you and others, can be repaired. When we parent with grace, as God the Father models to us, we can talk about things that our kids may not fully understand, yet need for today. 

Think about it. Jesus did this all the time with his disciples who would later understand what he meant. 

Talking about pornography starts in the beginning with the beauty of God’s design between a man and woman. It starts with the good God created and the hope we have in Jesus. It starts with talking about how great our bodies are and how interesting they are in function. It starts with normalizing them. 

The bounce of the eye

We see something, feel curious, and need a way out! 

First Corinthians 10:13 says it this way, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 

Let’s teach our kids to look for the way out again and again. The bounce of the eye. The looking away. The talking about it with a safe friend or parent. 

Let’s help them understand the longing of our heart, and meeting that need with whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable (Phil. 4:8). 

We do not want to teach our kids to white knuckle their way through the world, feeling shame for any temptation that comes their way. We do, however, want to teach them how to regulate those cravings, like we do with food, money, and emotions. 

Experiential truth

Similar to practicing how to save for the video game or to wait to open birthday gifts until their birthday, we practice in real time while driving on the freeway what to do when the billboard on the side of the road is glaring at us all and trying to tempt us with “you are not enough” or lust that consumes our God given desires, but leaves us empty and unsatisfied. 

Sometimes knowing that struggling with sex addiction (looking at porn, compulsive masturbation, sexting, etc. . .) is not about sex, but about comfort and emotional intimacy, helps us parents nurture the roots and not focus on the weeds. 

So when we teach our kids how to feel their emotions and find healthy ways to find care for those emotions, we give them an enormous leg up! When we love them despite their poor behaviors and help them build muscles for honesty, asking for help, and leaning into real relationships, we give them another leg up. 

As we help them carry the harder things of this world we become like Jesus to our kids—he says, “You will have troubles in this life, but I have overcome them” (John 16:33). 

Talking about pornography and how we can meet our God given desires in healthy ways, we give our children experiential truth. They learn that God can handle anything they face because we, their parents, modeled day in and day out. 

And friends—now that is good, good news for such a time as this! 

Consider a few extra resources to help you navigate these conversations:

Helping Moms Raise Confident Daughters

Courageous Girls Curriculum

Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen A. Jenson

Treading Boldly through a Pornographic World: A Field Guide for Parents 

Listen to the Living Wholehearted Podcast with Joshua Glaser: Episode 92   Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing by Jay Stringer and The Journey Course 

Listen to the Living Wholehearted Podcast series on Sexual Wholeness. Episode 31-34 

Live perfectly imperfect

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Terra Mattson

Terra Mattson (MA LPC, LMFT), a Christian Parenting spokesperson, is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor. Alongside her husband Jeff, Terra co-hosts the Living Wholehearted Podcast and are the co-founders of Living Wholehearted, a professional counseling and organizational development firm. Terra is the author of Courageous: Being Daughters Rooted in Grace. Terra is a mom to two girls, a novice gardener, loves to paint and bake, and craves reading a good book by a pool on a hot day.

Read more about Terra

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